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Fall-Winter 2021 fashion: Why so (not) serious?

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 7 min read
Fall-Winter 2021 fashion: Why so (not) serious?
Couture houses lighten the air with glamorously eccentric fashion strongly influenced by the pandemic
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It’s been a very unusual time for fashion — with creative shows streamed digitally to a larger global audience — but the general feeling we get so far is that designers just want to live vicariously through their collections. Who cares that we can’t travel, let’s make thick woolly parkas and floor length coats, because we can!

In a nutshell, fun fashion for the senses seemed to be the overarching theme for fall-winter fashion, but we can break it down further into three significant themes that have broken the mould this year: Environmentalism, dystopian styles, and work-from-home fashion.

Pandemic chic

In this new world that merges personal space with the public space, where lounging and living collide often in one single activity, some realist brands like Ermenegildo Zegna, Tod’s and Loewe have reshaped the very idea of formality where homewear has become the new outerwear. The latter presents a plethora of baggy silhouettes in genderless styles, while the former adds a touch of luxe to the tropes of stay-at-home dressing with luxurious cashmeres, knits, felts and soft leathers.

“We all are experiencing a new reality concerned with new needs, which lead us to previously unseen lifestyles and attitudes. Outdoor and indoor come together and a new way of dressing takes hold, where comfort and style blend to create a new aesthetic”, says Alessandro Sartori, artistic director for Ermenegildo Zegna.

From left: Tod's, Ermenegildo Zegna, Loewe

Dystopian couture

Move over Mad Max, the new dystopian style is now more refined and minimalistic. Think Hunger Games meets The Handmaid’s Tale, free from all associations of class, colour or creed. It’s really anything goes, from homey loungewear to spacey suits and flowy kaftans. The point of a dystopian look is that we all need to find comfort in the clothes we adorn to cope with these challenging times.

While Salvatore Ferragamo moves away from rigid formality to reinvent “new uniforms for a utopian future”, Ermenegildo Zegna blurs the lines between home wear and work wear, while Louis Vuitton defines the dress codes of globetrotting male archetypes.

“The objective was to engineer a collection that sees the present through a prism of the future — unleashing a multitude of fresh perspectives. I imagined the standard contours of today’s uniforms as fossilised remnants of a long-forgotten past, freed of all associations of class, colour or creed. This collection proposes new uniforms for a utopian future in which diversity and positivity combine to transform our world for the better,” says creative director for Salvatore Ferragamo Paul Andrew.

From left: Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Louis Vuitton

Upcycled styles

Fashion houses are paying more attention to the environment through the use of recycled materials in their couture creations. For example, Salvatore Ferragamo addresses material waste by using polyester made from post-consumer recycled materials, including old wool and cashmere. Even the wood in its footwear comes from responsibly managed forestry, while the leather is made with a chrome-free or metal-free tanning process through a certified lower environmental impact production process.

SEE:Golden Globes 2021: Hot looks for a virtual awards show

From recycled potato sacks turned into wearable pieces of art to clothes made from patchwork, and prints just wonderfully thrown together, many designers chose to upcycle everyday materials to create statement looks. While Loewe offered an electric collection of materials, styles and colours all mixed together in bold collages; Moschino transformed potato sacks into irreverent dresses; and Burberry combined a mix of materials, prints and textures to create patchwork jackets.

From left: Loewe, Moschino, Burberry

Everyday people

Hermès pay less focus on trends and more on workmanship and coordinates for everyday wear

Since joining as artistic director of Hermes in 2014, French designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has been focussed on the excellence of its atelier’s skills rather than keeping up with fashion trends. What the well-paying customer will appreciate is this season’s harmonious combination of fabrics with leathers and their diverse textures applied to contemporary silhouettes.

This season’s collection honours the confident woman and her ever-evolving femininity. The silhouettes are drawn to embrace the female form but nothing is too tight to hinder movement – the keyword for the season applied to all its shows across New York, Paris and Shanghai.

We see plenty of pant suits with straight leg trousers; comfy dresses cinched at the waist, and jackets (such as ponchos and anoraks) that don’t constrict. The key is comfort and elegance with superior workmanship that the house is known for, all perfectly wrapped in earthy hues that the everyday woman can wear.

The Hermès Men’s Winter 2021 collection is a stark contrast to its female equivalent, simply because it’s created by a different designer, Véronique Nichanian, who wanted to explore the way men want to dress in this new normal. She did so by playing with the theme of inside vs. outside, the formal against the informal. In other words, this is her take on what slouchy chic looks like.

The eye-catching collection has a series of interesting looks that play with lines, colours, prints and asymmetries which we imagine will go down well with the creative types. The excellence in Hermès’ workmanship is featured in its unique details such as slanted pockets with open-faced saddle stitching.

It’s immediately obvious that the silhouettes fall looser this season with plenty of joggers and straight-leg trousers that look almost flared. Baggy jackets and shirts are soft tailored and cut with the ease of loungewear, completed with brightly-coloured sneakers. There is no anchoring colour that holds the collection together, but that’s the whole point to this interior-exterior theme – what you wear at home is what you wear outside, right?

Relaxed elegance

Feel snug as a bug in Brunello Cucinelli’s knitwear collection that’s equal parts cosy and tailored

The Italian label best known for its knitwear gives us a Touch of Knit for its womenswear with a generous offering of cashmere, wool, silk, alpaca and mohair – all beautifully presented in a casual luxe collection of neutral-coloured coordinates.

Aside from delicately hand-crocheted knit sweaters and woolly jackets, Cucinelli offers up some refreshing tailored options for the pants-loving woman — a pinstripe suit, roomy wide-legged trousers and double breasted blazers — all comfy and not constrictive. Roomy cashmere coats paired with acid washed denims offer up some edginess to the otherwise elegantly casual line-up.

The Synthesis of Yesterday and Tomorrow, the theme for Cucinelli’s mens collection reimagines classic looks for modern times featuring diverse pieces from tailored jackets to baggy sweaters and slightly tapered bottoms.

This concept of relaxed elegance is intrinsic to Cucinelli’s style, so comfort is all key in the creation of each silhouette. Aside from the slightly larger anoraks, sweaters and cashmere knits, most of this season’s styles were kept slim and close to the body, catered for the real man. That includes the more formal suits like a dapper velvet tuxedo, which are cut straighter for extreme comfort.

According to Cucinelli during the Zoom presentation of this collection, he says the line embraces a sense of renewal. “People want to look well, not pretentious or showy. Just at ease with themselves and good-looking, elegant. They can’t wait to put their ties and well-cut suits back on.”

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